The gunshots echo too loudly in these tight corridors, its utilitarian passageways now lit only by the muzzle flashes of automatic weaponry. The few gaps in the cacophony are filled with screams of pain and rage, made by human voices and… not. Eventually the fight moves on, one side pushing forward leaving shredded bodies, buckets of multi-hued blood, and piles of bullet casings in their wake. After a while, the facility goes silent as a ship pulls away into darkened space.
“Profitability must be maintained!” an executive somewhere screams. The mutant menace was mitigated. Surely we’ve learned from our mistakes; why should that perfectly good facility go unused? A thorough scrub and then operations can and shall resume.
You often see in gaming social media circles someone jokingly posting an idea for a video game that would be both hilarious and amazing. Half the joke is the impracticality of the idea, that the hook wouldn’t outlive the mountain of work needed to bring such an idea to life.
Viscera Cleanup Detail is one of those fanciful video game ideas, except in this case, a group of people actually buckled down and made the darned thing. You’ve seen the setup in countless sci-fi works: aliens/mutants/aberrations/monsters attack and the heroic soldiers blast their way to glory. But who cleans it all up afterward?
In Viscera Cleanup Detail you play as a lowly custodian, sent by your company to various dark, filthy, and well, viscera-covered facilities armed with only a few cleaning supplies. The heroes have gone. The former staff of these places have long fled, or lay about in gruesome pieces for you to pick up. It is a truly dirty job and yet one that I find strangely meditative.
Using your mop you wipe up gallons of spilled blood, having to frequently haul and change out your quickly-spoiled bucket of water. You take trash and body parts to the ever-hungry incinerator, stuffing as much as you can into bins to make each trip as efficient as possible. It’s a job for the most hardened of hearts for the people who were killed here aren’t getting respectful or pomp-filled funerals; the most grace given is when you’re trying to figure out how to get a heavy, dismembered torso into the incinerator without spilling more blood on the floor you just mopped. The experience very much feels like a corporation-controlled dystopic future. People are assets and in this case, their shattered bodies have become liabilities.
You get little glimpses into the lives and ultimate downfall of these people. Scattered about are letters and data pads giving their private thoughts and fears. In the first level, for instance, you read about one scientist’s doubts about the wisdom of breeding plants with teeth. With the shrug of someone numb to all this, I toss that ephemera into the incinerator with all the rest— my orders were to scrub the violent history from this place.
Viscera Cleanup Detail leans into the dark humor of an uncaring sci-fi world. The game’s physics are bouncy and exaggerated. If you walk too quickly carrying a dirty bucket of water there’s a very good chance you‘ll accidentally splash bloody water everywhere. Some levels have you using a portable lift to clean elevated, hard-to-reach spots, and that device is chaotic, sometimes sproinging you and whatever else is aboard high into the air. One such occurrence sprayed my bin of body parts across the room and I spent ages finding limbs splashed into various corners.
Despite this, again, there’s something meditative about the game. It’s ridiculous because I have a house with *plenty* of things that need cleaning. But the real world doesn’t follow such defined rules that a video game does, even with the chaos this game sometimes solicits. The real world doesn’t always clean up to my satisfaction.
I can’t just throw everything into an incinerator, as much as I’d sometimes like to.